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I Can No Longer Be Silent
June 18, 2002
By Christian Salafia

I can be silent no more. I cannot sit idly by and watch our civil liberties be stripped away. I will no longer tolerate the shredding of the United States Constitution by our government. But most of all, I will no longer dishonor those who came before us - the brave men and women who fought and died to safeguard our freedoms, those ideals and beliefs that made this country great, deserve that much.

Over the last few months, my anger and disbelief have been growing. The Bush administration has waged an all out war on civil liberties, the environment, and the geopolitical community at large.

These actions have been carried out under the guise of 'patriotism' and 'the war on terror'. The American public has blindly accepted these actions without question, afraid of the recriminations of speaking out.

On June 14th, President Bush gave the commencement address at Ohio State University. Graduates and alumni planned a non-violent protest called "Turn Your Back on Bush." The simple premise of this peaceful protest was that as the President spoke, those participating would stand and turn away.

This simple protest was legal and protected by the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and peaceable assembly. However, the administration at OSU saw it differently. Prior to the ceremonies, an announcement was made. In this announcement it was said that "Please make sure you stand and loudly cheer our President. Our graduates have been requested to do the same, and have agreed to give a loud cheer for Mr. Bush. Also anyone involved in the protest would be arrested and expelled."

According to first-hand accounts, expulsion meant that those graduates who protested would be refused their diplomas and not allowed to graduate.

I became more and more upset as I read the first-hand account of the events. As one person stood to turn her back, she was led out of the stadium by a Columbus police officer with her three-year-old daughter in her arms. She was told that she was being charged with disturbing the peace, although the charge would be dropped if she left.

This is not the first time that the voices of opposition have been intimidated into silence by this administration. A fact not reported in the mainstream media is the presence of "First Amendment Zones" wherever the President speaks.

These are areas where dissenters are herded, usually far away and invisible to the President, and more importantly, the media covering the event. To call these areas "First Amendment Zones" is an affront to everything the First Amendment stands for.

I urge my fellow citizens to speak out against the growing tyranny and oppression in America. I urge you to read the foreign press to see how the world views the United States and learn what is not being reported by the American media. I urge you to get involved, write your congressmen, write the papers, call the radio talk shows, and most importantly, exercise your right to vote.

Some of you may say, "Who does this guy think he is?"

Let me tell you who I am. I am a father, a son, a brother, and an uncle. I am a proud veteran of the US Navy. But most of all, I am an American citizen, and I will be silent no more.

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